Access Vikings

Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


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Mike Harris ready to step in at right tackle

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated November 24th at 8:27pm 283735361

Vikings offensive tackle Mike Harris replaced Phil Loadholt at right tackle for the offense’s final nine snaps during the 24-21 loss to the Packers on Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium.

Now, he might be replacing Loadholt for the remaining five games. There’s a report out on Monday that Loadholt will be out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. He’ll be the second starting offensive lineman the Vikings will lose for the season, along with right guard Brandon Fusco, but it comes with an opportunity for Harris to play a significant role.

“The team is counting on me to perform, so I’m excited for the opportunity,” Harris said. “It’s a great privilege to start in the NFL and just got to take it how it is.”

Harris said Loadholt’s injury was unfortunate given it’s someone he looks up to in the locker room. It occurred with about six minutes left in the fourth quarter, prompting Harris to see some rare snaps on offense.

“It was pressure time,” Harris said. “We needed to score at that moment, and I hadn’t played really; was a little stiff, but thought I went in and did an OK job. But watching film right now and there’s definitely some things I need to work on so this week I’m going to take everyday, starting Wednesday, to prepare and get ready for a good opponent on Sunday.”

If the Vikings opt to replace Loadholt will Harris on Sunday against the Panthers, it will be his 13th career start through three seasons. Harris, 25, spent his first two seasons with the Chargers and was a rookie during offensive coordinator’s final season as the Chargers head coach in 2012.

“I can just build on my career,” said Harris on the possibility of starting. “It’s a great opportunity to start in the NFL at any position so it’s been a while since I’ve played but I’m just going to take it and go play hard. I know my team is counting on me to perform so that’s just what I’m going to take it as and just enjoy it for what it is. It’s unfortunate for Phil because he’s out, but I have to go in there and not miss a beat because he’s a great tackle.”

Kalil says post-game incident with fan 'not a big deal'

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated November 24th at 3:44pm 283735091

Left tackle Matt Kalil spoke with reporters this afternoon, a day after he declined to speak with the media on his way out of the locker room following the 24-21 loss to the Packers and then got into an altercation with a fan as he exited TCF Bank Stadium.

Kalil opened with a statement in which he apologized to the media for not talking yesterday.

“The whole incident yesterday with the media thing and the fan, obviously a lot of frustration losing a game like that and losing [right tackle] Phil [Loadholt] in the game to injury and stuff like that,” he said. “Obviously I was a little upset. But hopefully you guys didn’t take anything personally. It was just one of those days, so I apologize for that.”

Kalil, however, did not apologize to the fan he got into the altercation with outside the stadium.

The fan was Rhett Wade, a 25-year-old Eagan resident. On Twitter, Wade wrote that he asked Kalil, “Where do you want to be traded?” He also told Kalil that he would rather have Kalil’s brother, Ryan, a center for the Panthers, instead of Kalil on the Vikings.

“Just talking. He’s just a fan, so. Not a big deal,” Kalil said today when asked what the fan said to him. “He just caught me when I had a short fuse that day,” Kalil said, later adding, “It’s not like I dog-cussed the guy out or anything like that.”

Kalil did, however, walk over to Wade and knock the hat off his head before leaving the scene.

Kalil said he was frustrated with the way he played against the Packers. He was called for three penalties for 35 yards. He did not allow a sack, though, according to Pro Football Focus.

But while Kalil said five times that he didn’t think the incident with the fan was “a big deal,” he did say that he should have just shrugged the fan off and that he hopes to learn from the incident.

“It was one of those things when I walked away, ‘You know, what am I doing? That guy is not really worth my time,’” Kalil said. “Obviously I’ll learn from that and won’t let them get the best of me.”

It is possible that Kalil could be fined by the league for the incident.

Loadholt reportedly lost for season with torn pectoral

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated November 24th at 1:56pm 283725021

Right tackle Phil Loadholt is out for the rest of the season, according to an NFL.com report.

Loadholt tore a pectoral muscle in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 24-21 loss to the Packers. He was replaced by backup offensive tackle Mike Harris and did not return to the game.

Loadholt is the second Vikings offensive lineman to be lost to a torn pectoral muscle this season. Right guard Brandon Fusco suffered a similar season-ending injury back in Week 3.

Loadholt, 2009 second-round pick, is in his sixth season with the Vikings. Loadholt has struggled in pass protection this season, allowing five sacks and 33 total pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. But he was solid as a run blocker again.

We will get a chance to ask head coach Mike Zimmer for more on Loadholt’s injury at 2 p.m.

Counting Snaps from Packers 24, Vikings 21

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated November 24th at 11:59am 283714761

While counting snaps and looking for the meaning of life, or at least Sunday’s game …

OFFENSIVE SNAPS: 68.

QUARTERBACKS: Teddy Bridgewater 68, Christian Ponder DNP.

Thoughts: It’s not a coincidence that Bridgewater played in the Packers game that was competitive and Ponder played in the game that was 42-0 en route to 42-10. Granted, Teddy B got the home game and Chistian P got Lambeau Field on a short week after having not taken a snap all year. Although Teddy B looked good in the second half, he continues to look not-so-good in the first half. One has to wonder when the Vikings will try a no-huddle outside of two-minute situations. Teddy is so much more comfortable running a no-huddle at this point. Teddy B also learned not to throw the ball to the other team, especially when it’s the Packers because the margin for error is basically zero. Ponder threw two second-quarter picks that led to 14 points back on Oct. 2. Bridgewater threw one pick that led to seven points. Baby steps, people. Baby steps.

RUNNING BACKS: Jerick McKinnon 39, Joe Banyard 29, Ben Tate DNP, Matt Asiata INA, FB Jerome Felton 5, FB Zach Line INA.

Thoughts: In hindsight, it probably was silly to think Tate would play when he showed up on a Wednesday before kickoff. There’s more to the running back position that, well, running. And Norv Turner’s offense takes some time to adjust to. Plus, the Vikings liked Banyard enough to have him active before. Banyard looked like a young back with fresh legs making his first regular-season NFL carries. He showed a nice jump cut for a first down on third down. He averaged 5.2 yards on five carries in a solid debut. Assuming Asiata can return from a concussion this week, the running back position is a bit crowded. The Vikings don’t want to admit they’re out of the playoff picture, but you’d have to think they’d want to get a look at Tate, considering his age (26) and Adrian Peterson’s uncertain future with the team.

OFFENSIVE LINE: LT Matt Kalil 68, LG Charlie Johnson 68, C John Sullivan 68, RG Joe Berger 68, RT Phil Loadholt 59, RT Mike Harris 9, G David Yankey INA, G Austin Wentworth INA.

Thoughts: The initial thoughts? That offensive line is the No. 1 priority heading into the offseason. Does Kalil, who struggled again with three penalties, move to left guard, where Johnson won’t be returning? Does the team draft another left tackle? Does the team draft a guard higher than Day 3? At this point, everything should be on the table because, quite frankly, the offensive line isn’t performing well enough consistently enough for a quarterback and an offensive to function at a high level. Loadholt missed nine snaps and will be getting an MRI on his shoulder today.  Harris has had no glaring errors in limited action at guard and right tackle. If Kalil’s knee is as bad as he told us a week ago, then it’s time to sit him and see what Harris can do. The guess here is Harris would make everyone realize that things could indeed be worse without Kalil. But that further enhances the point that maybe the team needs to study all options heading into next year’s draft.

RECEIVERS, TIGHT ENDS: WR Charles Johnson 66, WR Greg Jennings 61, TE Kyle Rudolph 60, WR Cordarrelle Patterson 32, TE Rhett Ellison 30, WR Jarius Wright 8, TE Chase Ford 6, WR Adam Thielen 4.

Thoughts: It’s hard to fathom that it has come to this for the receiving corps. A month after Johnson, a second-year player with no previous regular-season experience, was signed off the street, he led the Vikings in snaps with 97 percent against the Packers. And what’s more amazing is the kid deserved the reps. What in the world is going on at receiver? Patterson continues to be a poor route runner and was injured returning a kickoff. Jennings continues to go long stretches where you wonder if he has even played. Wright is the most underrated receiver on the team, but his hamstring wasn’t back to full speed. Bridgewater’s reliance on throwing the ball to Johnson also needs to be tempered some. Yeah, Johnson appears to be one of the few targets getting separation. But there was at least one play Sunday where Jennings was open to the outside and Bridgewater stayed locked onto Johnson before throwing high and incomplete. At tight end, Rudolph looked more like his old self with some nice catch and runs. It’s a shame Ford can’t see more time, but there are only so many reps for the tight ends. Then again, the way the receivers are producing, maybe an extra dose of Rudolph and Ford together wouldn’t be a bad idea. Ellison had 24 more reps than Ford. If Ford were a better blocker, that discrepancy could be closed.

DEFENSIVE SNAPS: 65

LINEBACKERS: OLB Anthony Barr 65, OLB Chad Greenway 65, MLB Jasper Brinkley 14, OLB Gerald Hodges 2, OLB Brandon Watts INA, MLB Michael Mauti INA.

Thoughts: Barr is still exceptional and deserving of being on the field for every snap. But there were more missed tackles on Sunday. That being said, don’t worry about this guy. He may be the face of the franchise before Teddy becomes the face of the franchise. Hodges played two defensive snaps and made a gigantic blunder on one of them. He’s the one who got confused and didn’t cover the tight end who was open by 15 yards in the corner of the end zone on Aaron Rodgers’ 1-yard touchdown pass. Interesting that Mauti was inactive. He seems too good a player to be sitting out. But the Vikings are working through some adjustments on special teams.

DEFENSIVE LINE: DE Everson Griffen 59, NT Linval Joseph 52, DE Brian Robison 48, DT Tom Johnson 40, DT Shamar Stephen 39, DE Corey Wootton 23, DT Sharrif Floyd INA.

Thoughts: The defensive line didn’t make any glaring gaffes like the first Packers game. But it’s never a good thing for the D-Line when everyone knows the other team is going to run the ball straight ahead and yet they’re still able to do so successfully. The Packers did that with Eddie Lacy early, often and especially late. Stephen, a rookie, got his first start when Floyd was deactivated because of a knee injury.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: SS Robert Blanton 65, FS Harrison Smith 65, CB Xavier Rhodes 63, CB Captain Munnerlyn 62, CB Josh Robinson 52, S Andrew Sendejo 1.

Thoughts: The secondary played one of the best games that a Vikings secondary has played against Rodgers in recent memory. The longest reception by a receiver — Randall Cobb’s 29-yarder — was a ridiculously perfect throw (and one Rodgers makes routinely) against tight coverage by Munnerlyn. Blanton still has not missed a defensive snap this season. He’s the only defender that can say that. Robinson didn’t have a head-turning great game, but unlike last week in Chicago, he also didn’t have a head-turning horrendous game.

SPECIAL TEAMS SNAPS LEADER: Marcus Sherels 18.

OVERALL SNAPS LEADER: Blanton 73 (65 defense, 8 special teams).

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: Too much Rodgers and Lacy, Kalil ducks the media and more

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated November 24th at 8:21pm 283689261

Every weekday, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening with the team that day.

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

— There was simply too much Aaron Rodgers and Eddie Lacy to handle yesterday.

— The Packers used Lacy and the running game to finish off the Vikings.

— Struggling LT Matt Kalil dodged reporters, but he couldn’t dodge controversy.

— Rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater said that nervous energy affected his play early.

— Head coach Mike Zimmer second-guessed his decision to not do an onside kick late.

— WR Cordarrelle Patterson and RT Phil Loadholt were injured in the loss.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

BEHIND ENEMY LINES

— The Packers won a close game for the first time in a long while.

— The Packers used Lacy and the running game to secure the victory.

— Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has conquered the Vikings.

— Both Packers guards played through pain against the Vikings.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

The Vikings are back at Winter Park today to attend meetings and go through the Packers film. The locker room will be open to media and Zimmer will hold his usual press conference at 2 p.m.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

The Packers have now scored 23 or more points in 17 straight games against the Vikings.

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